"" Writer's Wanderings: July 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Books For The Road - Anna Karenina

This is definitely a book for a very, very long trip. The printed version runs between 850-900 pages depending upon the publisher and translation. The e-book I bought was over 2900 pages when I enlarged it to medium print. What was I thinking??

I wanted to read something by Leo Tolstoy and this seemed to pique my interest more than others. I found several reviewers who felt it was one of his best novels--maybe the best. It was an adventure and as a reader who normally devours a book in a week or less, this one took me the better part of a month.

The story's title character, Anna, is a woman who ends up in an adulterous situation and becomes the mistress of her lover, Count Vronsky. Her husband stalwartly refuses to give her a divorce. (This is taking place in Russia in the late 19th century). In contrast to Anna and Vronsky's life, is the life of Levin and Kitty (I would give you last names but they get confusing) who find in each other a love that is purer and deeper even though it is frought with doubts. Along the way you will meet quite a few other colorful characters which at times can get confusing with their similar names. But each is uniquely created by Tolstoy and contributes to the intrigue of the lives of the main characters.

If you love to read the old classics that deal with political views, philosophical debate, a look at life in the time period, societies, and religion and still have a good storyline, this is it. Anna Karenina has it--love, drama, conflict and all of the above. I won't say it's an easy read. Tolstoy's sentences go on forever sometimes and you wander through the characters' minds a bit more than you may want to but he always brings you back to the storyline and you can't help but continue on.

I found one other interesting tidbit as I looked at what others had to say about this classic. Apparently Tolstoy's inspiration came from an incident that occurred at a train station. He saw a young woman who had fallen under a train. I'm sure as a writer he began with the question, "why?" and then started to imagine the reasons. What resulted was quite a tale and a look at Russian life in, what was to him, modern times. It is a fascinating look at the society of the times.

Only in Seattle. . .

Where else would you find a sign like this but in Seattle?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Private Island of Your Own

Really. Yes. You can have a private island in many parts of the world and some are at a reasonable price for a week's stay. This was another idea gleaned from reading the Continental Hemispheres magazine.

The short item pictured a place in Sweden, a one room house on Lake Malaren which was actually an art project by Mikael Genberg. If you go deluxe, you can get someone to deliver dinner to you by boat. By the way, it's called Utter Inn.

While the featured accommodation was not exactly ON an island (it was surrounded by small uninhabited islands) I was intrigued by the website's URL, privateislands.com, and looked it up. Sure enough, you can rent accommodations on quite a few private islands all around the world from the Florida Keys to Fiji to the Seychelles off the African coast where Kate and her prince spent their honeymoon.

The site also features private islands for sale. A bit out of my price range and comfort zone. I'm not ready to retreat from life entirely and go live on a private island. Not unless I have a volleyball I can call Wilson.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Whatever floats your . . .Lodge?

My recent posts about our Canadian vacations as a child careened back into my head as I leafed through Continental's Hemisphere magazine during our flight to Seattle last week. An article about an unusual spot in British Columbia popped off the page--a floating lodge!

Every spring the King Pacific Lodge, a 17 room/suite luxury lodge is towed from its winter home in Prince Rupert to its anchorage in Barnard Harbor in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, the world's largest remaining tract of temperate rainforest. In 2006, a coalition of native people, the Britisch Columbian government, and private enterprise placed 21 million acres of the rainforest under protection to safeguard it for future generations. The lodge operates on a "triple bottom line" philosophy which includes a deep respect for the land, for the people of the land, and an understanding that sustainable tourism can only happen with visitors who feel the same way.

The lodge is built of native pine, fir, cedar, and stone on a 120x60 square foot barge. It has a wrap around deck, spa, Jacuzzi and plunge pool. Orcas, humpbacks, bears, seals, sea lions, sea otters, and eagles can be found in the area and wilderness guides are available to help you find them.

Guests are flown in from Bella Bella (about 2.5 hours from Vancouver) by float plane. What a way that would be to start a vacation!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Washington - The Olympic Peninsula

On our recent visit to Seattle to see family, we packed the grands in the van and set out for the Olympic Peninsula to the northwest. Taking the most direct route ("Are we there yet?"), we boarded a ferry in Seattle and took the 35 minute ride across to Bainbridge Island.

Bainbridge Island would have been a nice day trip as well with all the different shops that line the main street (and once the new paving is done, it will be easy to navigate). We shopped a bit and then stopped for lunch at Cafe Nola. After indulging in their specialty, the Dungeness Crab Melt, sampling some delicious mussels, and sharing some truffel fries (fries seasoned with truffel oil), we set out for the drive to Olympic National Park.

Our son stopped at the information center when we arrived about an hour later and purchased a day pass for the park. (Passes are also necessary for the state park as well.) Our first destination was the overlook on Mount Walker about 2800 feet up and accessible by one very long, narrow winding road (or a trail if you want to hike straight up 2.000 feet). Two options allow for a view to the south and north. To the south you get a fantastic eagle's view of the city. On a really clear day it is probably spectacular. The north view is more mountains and below lush green countryside of the rainforest and glimpses of Puget Sound.

A few miles south of Quilcene we parked and hiked the short trail to Falls View Falls. The kids were especially impressed with this as we watchen the water tumble over the smoothly warn path it has made in the rock wall. There are many waterfalls in the park. This was probably one of the most easily accessible. A waterfall trail is available online if you are ambitious and looking for a good hike.

Nest we drove to Dosewallips State Park to walk out to the beach where people are allowed to dig for clams and oysters. There are rules and regulations one of which is that you must shuck the oysters there on the beach and leave the shells. This made for great scavenging for the kids who picked up large shells and dug with them and used them to try to catch small crabs in the water.

While a day is certainly not enough to explore all this region has to offer, our day was filled with spectacular views, great fresh air and even the sun which sometimes doesn't cooperate in the Seattle area. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to return sometime and take the 101 highway all the way around the park.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kiss the Blarney Stone?

In our planning for a trip to Ireland, the question has come up: Do we or do we not climb to the top of the castle so that we can kiss the blarney stone?

There are hundreds of tales and stories surrounding the stone in Blarney Castle thought to be of the same type found in the Stonehenge. The stories are all colorful. Some miraculous. But do remember we are talking about the Blarney Stone.

The one that seems to give some historical significance takes place when Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII, felt that those in Ireland should title their lands to her since she was the reigning queen of Ireland as well as England. She corresponded with Cormac Teige McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, who with grace and good humor continued to agree that he would indeed title his land to her. The queen was please until as time went on she realized he had put her off subtley each time to which she finally said, "Oh! He's just giving me a lot more blarney!"

Take a look at the custom of kissing the stone. I ask you, is this something I really should do and risk life and limb for?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ohio State Fair

One of the largest state fairs in the country happens in my home state of Ohio. The Ohio State Fair was created in 1845 by the General Assembly of Ohio but the first fair did not take place until 1850 and was held in Cincinnati. In the 1850s there were few good roads to travel and getting there often took days. The fair itself was only two days long.

Over the next several decades, the Oho State Exposition as it was called was held in various cities throughout the state. Eventually, the city of Columbus hosted the fair with a contract to do so for five years. Everyone enjoyed the central location so much that it became the permanent home for the annual fair.

In the early days, the fair focused on agriculture but in 1896, organizers included entertainment. Also that year, electricity was first used to light the fair, the first fair in the nation to do so.

Each year there is a life-sized cow made from butter. I didn't realize the custom dated all the way back to 1903.

Except for a few years during the war, the Ohio State Fair has been an annual event. This year the fair runs July 27 through August 7. For information see the Ohio State Fair website.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Have You Had Your Fill Of Barbecue Yet?

Our very favorite place for BBQ ribs closed a few years ago and recently our most convenient place for ribs closed as well. That sent us scrambling for where to get some great ribs for Fourth of July. We were a bit disappointed in what we found at a restaurant near us that specialized in wings. Still, they were flavorful but left us wanting more.

There are usually several BBQ rib cookoffs in our area in a summer and I was curious to see where else there might be opportunity for those delicious staples of the season. Well, there are all sorts of places all over the country! Cookoffs, festivals, you name it there are still lots of opportunities to indulge. Check the listings at the BBQ Festival Directory for a place near you.

And if you're in the mood for BBQ chicken, here's my mom's recipe for the sauce. She also marinated her chicken in Italian dressing for a few hours and then gave it a good start in the oven before finishing it off on the grill.

Mom's BBQ Sauce

Melt 1/4# (1 stick) butter or margarine in small saucepan. Add 1 small can tomato paste. Mix together with the following:
1/3 c. cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
3 Tbl. worchestershire sauce

Stirr and simmer for 5 minutes. Apply to chicken when almost done grilling.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Windjammers of Maine

A cruise is a cruise is a cruise? Nope. There are all sorts of ways to cruise besides just on a cruise ship. Windjammers are one. I just discovered that there is a whole fleet that sails out of Camden, Rockland, and Rockport, Maine. Having been to the coast in Maine and exploring a bit, I can imagine how beautiful these sailing vacations would be.

The Maine Windjammer Association lists thirteen different historic schooners you can choose from. They vary in size with the largest being the Victory Chimes which has quite a history dating back to 1900. It is 132 feet long and accommodates 40 guests.

The sailing schedules are all different but generally range from June to September. I imagine September sails would give you the beginning of the fall colors but maybe not.

Having owned a small sailboat in the past, I know there is nothing more relaxing than catching wind in your sails and gliding through the water enjoying the warm sun and the fresh air. Well, it would be more enjoyable on the Windjammer I think. I wouldn't have to adjust the sails and cook for the captain.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Earthship - House of the Future?

Just southwest of Zanesville, Ohio, is a compound called Blue Rock Station. It is the place to go to see the Earthship house made of. . .trash! But perhaps that's not the right term. Recyclable materials sounds better. Owners/builders Jay and Annie Warmke were intrigued by a PBS radio show that featured an architect who designed Earthship homes from old tires and bottles. They couldn't pass up the challenge.

In 1996 they began construction of the Earthship on 38 acres of land they had purchased in Muskingham County. The walls of the original 1650 square foot home were built from over 1200 old tires retreived from an illegal dumpsite being cleaned up by the EPA. Wood used in the construction was re-claimed from old barns.

The family lived for a short time in Europe but returned to finish their project and live in the Earthship home that now measures 2200 square feet. Since their return they have added several other features made of bottles and re-claimed wood and a chicken coop of strawbales.

Visitors can tour the house and make friends with a variety of different farm animals as well as learn about natural gardening and using solar energy. Check out their website for more information.

Me. I kind of like my conventional home. I'll stick to putting out our containers of recyclables for someone else to get creative with.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Island Airlines - The Ford Tri-motor Remembered

A deep rumble permeates the plane and its passengers as they taxi to the end of the airstrip. A pause. A turn. The pilot, Harold Hauck, looks back at his passengers, grins, and then turns to the controls as the Ford Tri-motor he pilots gallops down the runway and finally lifts into the air. It is a thrill I fondly remember from my youth in the late 50s and 60s as my family made our weekly visit to their vacation home on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.

The Ford Tri-motor, or the Tin Goose as it was nicknamed, was a major mode of transportation for the Island Airlines of Port Clinton, Ohio, for over 50 years. At one time I believe they owned three. It carried passengers and cargo to the Lake Erie Islands of South Bass, Middle Bass, North Bass, and Rattlesnake. In the winter, it was the only means of public transportation to the islands and was used as a “school bus” for the children on the outer islands who attended school at Put-In-Bay or Port Clinton on the mainland.

My very first plane ride was in the Tin Goose whose corrugated metal sides shone brightly in the sun. The Goose had room for two pilots and seventeen passengers who sat on small metal seats padded lightly with vinyl cushions. The back of the metal seat barely made it to the small of an adult’s back (the restored version appears to have much more comfortable seats) and most hunched forward to look out the windows as the plane flew its scenic route. Often cargo was stacked on one side of the plane, passengers sat on the other and when the plane banked, hands would go up to be sure the cargo stayed in place.

The most exciting trip for me came later when my husband and I hitched a ride on the mail route on the Tri-motor. We lifted off and touched down at each of the islands where mail pouches were exchanged. Landing and take-off at Rattlesnake Island was as exciting as any amusement park ride could be. The airstrip was cut across the little island and the pilot had to judge his landing quickly at the start of the runway so that he had enough distance to brake and turn before falling off the cliff at the other end. Take off was equally exciting as the plane gunned engines at one end of the runway and took off with a burst of “speed” while everyone held their breath to see if we could lift off before reaching the lake on the other side.

There were only two crashes that I know of in the islands. One took place on Kellys Island in 1954 and the other at Port Clinton in 1972. The pieces-parts of the Island Airlines Tri-motors are shown here in a series of photographs taken in Vicksburg, Michigan, where the plane was being restored.

There is a restored Tri-motor that tours in the summer and offers rides. What a privilege we had to ride at a $5-10 rate when we were kids. Fond memories.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Kennywood Park - Now and Then

On hearing good things about Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh, PA, we decided to make a day trip with our grandson to see what people liked so much. There was much to like starting with the beauty of the grounds. There are still a lot of shady trees and beautiful gardens where one can sit and recuperate from all the fun and frivolity that an amusement park provides. On a hot day, it was a welcome sight.

The park has more than a half dozen roller coasters of all sorts and sizes but it also has plenty of other rides that are entertaining for those who aren't as interested in the ups and downs of the big rides. Several spots feature entertainment. The day we went, there were troops of young Irish dancers as well as a band, a cirque-type act, and a gazebo with featured guitarist/singers.

What I did not expect was the amount of history that was to be found on the grounds starting with the statue of George Washington and the marker that tells of a battle fought at the base of the cliffs upon which Kennywood sits. Apparently when General Braddock was wounded in the fight, a young George Washington led the troops back to Maryland.

History of the park is most evident when you ride the railroad and listen to the story of Kennywood that dates back to 1898. Originally it was a trolley park. Two of the building still exist from those early days, a carousel pavilion and a restaurant. In the early 1910s two roller coasters, the Racer and the Speed-O-Plane were built. Three more coasters were added in the 1920s and the Racer was replaced with a new Racer. As you wander the grounds, look for plaques that tell of the designers of the coasters and the history of some of the buildings.

During the depression a dance hall helped keep the park operating as famous dance bands became quite an attraction. In the 1940s during the war, there were few new rides but the miniature train that still operates today was among the new purchases.

If you are a coaster enthusiast, you would be very interested in the history of the coasters of Kennywood and their designers. Check out their history page. If your not an enthusiast but like the old coasters that don't go upside down and corkscrew, you'll enjoy the older wooden coasters. They were a lot smoother than some we've been on at other parks.

While our day was extremely hot (92 degrees F), it was not unbearable with a slight breeze and the shady oases provided by the landscaping. Prices were reasonable as well which made the day even more delightful.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Moonbow

Always on the lookout for new and unusual places to visit, I came across a place near Corbin, Kentucky, where instead of a rainbow, you can see a moonbow--an arched prism of color created by the moon. It happens when conditions are right at the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park and there is a full moon. (Go to the Moonbow website for the actual pictures. Mine is of just a generic rainbow picture.)

The Cumberland Falls are deep within the Daniel Boone National Forest where there are no urban lights to obscure the interaction between the mist and the angle of the moon beams that create the phenomenom. When mist from the falls refracts the light from the moon, it makes a rainbow-like arc that is a photographer's dream according to the website.

Victoria Falls in Africa also experiences a moonbow and at certain seasons, conditions permitting, a moonbow can be seen at Yosemite Falls in California. It is said that on rare occurences a moonbow can faintly be seen at Niagra Falls but I'm guessing that the night lights there would wash out the natural phenomenon.

The good news is that you don't have to stay up all night to see it. Apparently the best time to see a moonbow is just after the moon has cleared the ridge of the Falls. It usually happens about an hour after night fall and the conditions are right beginning two nights before a full moon. After that, for the next three nights you add about 30 minutes more each day since the moon rises progressively later each night.

The website gives you the best times to see the moonbow according to the lunar calendar. Sounds like an item for my travel bucket list.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Books For The Road - Meghan Rose Is Out Of This World

It's summer and what could be better for your new reader than a book written just for her reading level? How about eight books?! The Meghan Rose series has been extended with four new books.

Meghan Rose Is Out Of This World was my choice to read for review. I think it appealed to the younger version of myself that loved science at that age and was fascinated as well with outer space. But this book is more than just about a young girl's fancy for science and space. It's about getting yourself into hot water by telling a whopper to impress your friends. Now this could be a lesson in honesty and humility to be learned at any age.

Meghan is jealous of a girl who brags about her summer activities in dance camp and worried that her friends might prefer Sophie over her, Meghan makes up a story of going to Space Camp. As the proverb proves, her web of lies catches her and eventually she realizes she has to tell the truth. But I like the outcome. A friend is a friend and will love you in spite of your short comings.

As a K-2 teacher, author Lori Z. Scott knows her audience and knows that a good story with the stuff kids like to giggle at will catch their attention and instill a lesson painlessly. Her Meghan stories, originally written for her own daughter, each feature a challenge for Meghan. For example in Meghan Rose Is Tickled Pinkish Orange, Meghan is challenged to find a way to stay happy even when challenged by someone who is mean to her.

Scott includes some great discussion questions at the end of each book and a couple of pages of activities to do that correlate with the story. That's what makes these so great for summer reading. Doing the activities together while using the discussion questions to get your reader to talk about the story, is a win-win whether you're on the road or at home.

Not only does Scott write a good children's book, but when asked for one unusual fact about her she says, "I can draw with both hands at the same time. And, by using both hands, I can write forwards, backwards, and upside-down all at once. It doesn’t make me a better storyteller, but it’s a cool trick!" If you'd like to know more about Lori Scott and the first Meghan books, check out an earlier post here.

Now. . .leave a comment below for a chance to win a Meghan Rose book. Two will be given away in the next week. Be sure to check back to see if you've won or click the email comments box and you will automatically be emailed the comment that announces the winners.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Would You Charge This Passenger For Extra Bags?

Saturday we collected our vacation mail from the post office and sat at the kitchen table with our second cups of coffee and went through it. We always set the trash can between us and by the time we're done 3/4 of the mail is in it. Sometime while we were away, our copy of the Cleveland Zoological Society's magazine arrived. The cover featured one of my favorite animals, the meerkats, so I started perusing the articles.

I almost missed a short column in the back that talked about saying goodbye to one of the zoo's rhinos. Eastern black rhinoceros Zuri was sent to the Oregon Zoo in Portland on loan for breeding purposes. When I read about the preparations for her trip, I decided I had it pretty good with only having to pack a suitcase and board a plane.

Zuri weighs 2600 pounds and had to fly in a crate. The process of preparing for the trip took almost a year. Using positive reinforcement, Zuri was acclimated to a large crate a little each day until she was able to stay in the crate for the length of time that would involve travel. When that was reached, there was still the problem of strange noises that could startle her so zookeepers needed to desensitize the rhino to sounds that she might hear along the way.

When all of that was done, Zuri flew first class--for a rhino--aboard a FedEx cargo plane with an entourage that included a veterinarian, a curator and the deputy director from the Oregon Zoo.

All things considered. I travel pretty light.

Friday, July 01, 2011

A Caribbean Treat - Fried Bread

One of our favorite restaurants on Grand Cayman on the north end, is Over The Edge. Their back porch hangs over the water and it's a great view of the sunset as you dine on their delicious menu choices. Whatever your order, they always begin by bringing you a basket of their wonderful fried bread, hot and tasty.

I've done a little searching for a recipe that might be comparable to theirs. While I hinted, no one was volunteering the recipe but they did say it was made with a dough that used baking powder. Here's one that might be closest. I'll be trying it at home sometime soon.

3 cup sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter softened
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
Fat for deep frying

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Cut in soft butter. Add enough milk to make soft pliable dough. Knead on floured board until dough is smooth and soft but elastic. Divide into 8 balls and brush melted butter on top of each. Cover and let stand 45 minutes. Pat out into rounds 5-6" in diameter and about 1/4" thick. At this point, I believe the restaurant cuts the rounds into fourths. You can either fried the large round or smaller pieces in the fat or oil for deep frying. I'm guessing the restaurant uses lard because of the taste. In the States, a restaurant would have to use something more "healthy." Dough should rise immediately to surface. When brown on one side, turn over and brown other side being careful not to pierce bread. Drain on paper towel and serve hot.
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